Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Guess Who's Evaluating Those Standardized Tests? (I Wish This Were a Joke!)

From an ad on Craigslist:

"The starting pay is $10.70 per hour." For that sum, I'm sure they are getting
some highly skilled staff. Screenshot from Craigslist.

Who? Measurement Incorporated

We are a diverse company engaged in educational research, test development, and the scoring of tests administered throughout the world. 

What? Reader/Evaluator Position

If you qualify as a reader/evaluator, you will be eligible to work on a number of our projects. Many projects require readers to score essays for content, organization, grammatical convention, and/or the student's ability to communicate and to respond to a specific directive. Other projects involve scoring test items in reading, math, science, social studies, or other subject areas. The tests you will score come from many different states and from students at all grade levels, elementary through college, depending on the project.

Where and when? 

Starting in March of 2015 , day and evening shift, in Ypsilanti!


Bachelor's degree in any field
Ability to perform adequately on a placement assessment

HOURS: Temporary, but 5 days/week.

PAY: The starting pay is $10.70 per hour. 

Yet we are going to use these temporary employees to evaluate our students' work, and our teachers. Yippee.

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Thursday, February 19, 2015

The Governor's FY 2015-2016 Budget: What Does All This Mean To You?

This is a guest post by A3 Teacher:

As the State lays out its K-12 budget for the 2015-16 school year, there are some interesting things to note.  

First, Governor Snyder is claiming a $75 per pupil increase across the board for all schools.  

While on the surface this seems wonderful, the reality for some school districts is that this will result in a net loss.  While increasing the per pupil amount, other aspects of funding are being reduced or disappearing (for example the “best practices” incentive and performance incentive). 

 According to MLive’s article and database, Ann Arbor Public Schools would stand to lose $55 per pupil, Ypsilanti Community School would stand to gain $176 per pupil, Saline Area Schools would lose $10 per pupil, Dexter Community Schools would lose $44 per pupil, Chelsea would gain $28 per pupil, and Whitmore Lake would gain $25 per pupil.

[Ed. Note: Here is a nice piece about the implications of this so-called increase for one school district, written by the Superintendent of the Godfrey-Lee Public Schools.]

Now for the 2014-2015 fiscal year, there is a surplus in the K-12 School Aid Fund to the tune of $284.4 million; conversely the General State Budget is short $454 million.  Right now the Michigan legislature is figuring out ways to take that K-12 surplus to pay for our general fund shortfall. 

Wouldn’t it make sense that money allocated for K-12 education should go towards education?  

A surplus in the K-12 School Aid Fund should be reinvested in students, not used to pay a general fund deficit.  

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Wednesday, February 18, 2015

You Should Be Super Mad Right Now: Legislators Rob School Aid Fund

As a friend wrote on Facebook, 

"This just makes my blood boil."

What was she talking about? She was talking about today's House vote to steal money from the School Aid Fund to fill a General Fund deficit. 

This clip art is derived from clip art
released into the public domain by the 
Open Clip Art Library. also recommends donating
any clip art you make to the 
Open Clip Art Library
and any images you create to 
Wikimedia Commons.

Excerpt #1 from Kyle Feldscher's MLive article, or 
How are we screwing our school districts this time?:
HB 4110 would shift $167 million from the K-12 portion of the School Aid Fund to the community college portion of the fund. The money that would be freed up by the move would then go toward the general fund deficit.
The legislation also uses $80 million that was initially intended to be paid toward Michigan Public School Employees Retirement System (MPSERS) to pay down the deficit. That payment would have been above and beyond the required payment to MPSERS, according to state officials.
"Two hundred and fifty million dollars is being siphoned from the School Aid Fund," said Rep. Sarah Roberts, D-St. Clair Shores. "This money could be used to significantly increase the foundation allowance in support of improving education here in the state of Michigan."

Excerpt #2: 
In which the Republican legislators try to make this sound like it's budget-neutral. It's not.

The School Aid Fund was projected to end the fiscal year with a $283.5 million surplus.

Rep. Al Pscholka, R-Stevensville, said he was voting in favor of the bill in order to balance the budget and "uphold the Constitution." The Michigan Constitution requires a balanced budget.
"I'm proud of the fact that we are balancing this budget without touching kids, without touching colleges, without touching universities," Pscholka said.

The House passed the bill 62-48. Surprise! It was mostly Republicans who voted for it, and Democrats who voted against it.

And here's Excerpt #3, which explains something you might be wondering:
Why do we have this deficit after all? I thought there was going to be a budget surplus! (You weren't dreaming.)

The budget shortfall in fiscal year 2015 is the result of businesses in Michigan cashing in old Michigan Business Tax credits issued between 1996 and 2011. Representatives from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation said Wednesday the state is on the hook for $9.38 billion in leftover tax liability until 2032 due to the credits.
Right. You read that correctly. 9.38 BILLION DOLLARS. I can predict how this story goes over the next ten years. Unless we change what we're doing.

Translation: We could have shored up our schools' foundation allowances. We could have supported the school retirement funds and thus reduced the burden on our schools (which now spend something like 1/4 of their foundation allowance on pensions). We could have protected the school aid fund for K-12 funding. [And really--I'm all for community colleges! But as I mentioned the other day, we already pay--quite a bit--for them.]

In any case, we should not be subsidizing businesses at the expense of schools.
I suppose you could still say something to your state senator...if you live somewhere else. I'm pretty sure Sen. Rebekah Warren already agrees with me.

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Monday, February 16, 2015

Why Is Washtenaw Community College So Inexpensive? We Pay For It!

I was getting my hair cut the other day, and the hair dresser's assistant, who is currently at Washtenaw Community College, mentioned that she was planning on going to cosmetology school.

The hairdresser then said, "It's not cheap, either! It costs a lot more than WCC!"

And I said...

"That's because we pay for WCC. In our taxes."

"We do?" she said. 

I'm pretty sure she is not the only one who doesn't know that we pay a millage for WCC. 

We pay 3.46 mills for WCC, and that is higher than the Ann Arbor Public Schools operating millage (2.18), higher than the Ann Arbor District Library millage (1.55), and just about one mill lower than the millage for Washtenaw County's general operating budget! (4.55).

So next time you are thinking about how "inexpensive" WCC is, remember--that's because we are subsidizing it. 

And that is today's public service announcement.

WCC--yet another of our public schools.

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Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Five Updates: Who's Covering the First Elected Board, What's Your First Choice, Where's the Money Gone, Who's Listening Anyway, Why Keep Testing

1. Ypsilanti Community Schools board voted 4-3 not to do a superintendent search--their superintendent's contract will automatically renew in April for another year if they don't do anything.

It's not that I have an opinion about whether the school board should continue with Laura Lisiscki as superintendent, but I first heard about this issue on a facebook group. As a rumor. The rumor turned out to be true.

It also turned out that did cover the school board meeting, but that is not always a sure thing.

Who is routinely covering the school board meetings now? (Good question.) Does it matter that a discussion like this ends up with a 4-3 vote? (I would say that it does.) What is the best way to keep the community informed?

2. Ann Arbor schools has opened its doors to students from other districts. Part of me feels that this is poaching. On the other hand, the other school districts had already opened their doors to schools of choice.

But also--perhaps more interesting--you can also choose to send your kids to a different school within the district. Here's some information, the "window" for applications ends February 27th:

3. Local state representative Jeff Irwin explained how we can follow the money the other day on Facebook: 

I just finished my first meeting of the Appropriations committee. Chairman Al Pscholka offered some thoughtful and well-offered commentary at the beginning of the meeting focused on encouraging committee members to get educated on Michigan's budget. Then, we received a report from the House Fiscal Agency on state revenues.
This report highlights the impact of the massive changes that were made to business taxes in 2011. In summary, business taxes are expected to net just over $180M in the next budget. This represents only about 2% of the state's general fund. Just a few years ago, corporate taxes brought in around $2B per year in state taxes (about 25% of the GF). If you're wondering why tuition is going up, class sizes are going up and taxes on individuals are going up, now you have your answer. (Emphasis added.)

4. Ann Arbor Superintendent Jeanice Swift is on her second listening tour. I thought the first one was pretty successful, and I'm planning to attend at least one of these. I hope you will go to one too--so you can bring up your most important issues, whether they be transportation, testing, trimesters, trigonometry, tenth grade, or (I'm running out of "t" words here)...

All discussions run from 6:30-8 pm unless otherwise noted:

Clip art taken from:
Monday, February 9 at the Administration Building hosted by the PTO Council
Tuesday, February 10 at Scarlett Middle School
Thursday, February 12 at Slauson Middle School
Monday, February 23 at the Downtown Library, 4th Floor at 12noon-1:30pm
Tuesday, March 3 at Tappan Middle School
Monday, March 9 at Peace Neighborhood Center
Thursday, March 12 at A2 STEAM at Northside
Thursday, March 26 at Pathways to Success Academic Campus
Monday, March 30 at Community High School
Tuesday, March 31 at Ann Arbor Open

5. Last, but not least, we come to testing. 
This spring there will be the M-Step, which is Michigan's "not" Smarter Balance and "not" the MEAP and "not" the ACT [but 11th graders will still ALSO have to take the ACT]...the last minute, untested, unvalidated, uncomparable to last year's MEAP but being used because state officials couldn't agree on using Smarter Balance standardized test. And this will probably be replaced by something else next year. Read all about M-Step here.

Well--if you want to know what is going on with testing at the state level, then I suggest you subscribe to the Michigan Department of Education's Spotlight on Student Assessment and Accountability

If you were paying attention a few months ago, you might remember that several local superintendents voiced the concern that there was too much testing in the 11th grade. And so I was interested in this tiny concession that was published in Spotlight: 
Due to concerns around testing time, the Classroom Activity andPerformance Task components of the 11th grade M-STEP are optionalfor high schools. While there are some benefits to administeringthese components, they will not be required. There will be noaccountability penalty in terms of participation or scoring for highschools that choose to not administer the classroom activities andperformance tasks. This does not apply to the classroom activitiesand performance tasks in grades 3 through 8 — those are required.

Anyone want to opt out? Here is an article about some strategies.
Also, you can find some local resources (people!) at the Facebook page, Ann Arbor STOP: Stop Overtesting.

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Thursday, January 29, 2015

Standardized Testing and My iPhone

Today I got a notice that my iPhone system software was ready for an upgrade. And this is what the upgrade will do. Note point #5. [No, this is not a joke--the new iphone/ipad software is set up to make it easy to take "education standardized testing."]

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Today This Blog Is Five Years Old

Five years ago today I started this blog. Read why here.

Five years, two children who have graduated from the Ann Arbor schools, one more with just 2-1/2 years left, educational policy in this state that goes from bad to worse.

I'm not sure what comes next with this blog. I do know that I have a lot of other things competing for my attention, and a lot of other interests that have gone untended.

I also know that there is a huge need for attention to be paid to the schools--much more than I anticipated when I started.

In the meantime, I expect the next year to be one of discernment regarding what I should do with this blog. It might continue, more or less as, or perhaps with a focus on higher level thoughts about education. I might be looking for someone else to take it over. Is that you? Or it might just remain, as a piece of history.

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Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Silence Is Assent: Je Suis Charlie #charliehebdo

Je Suis Charlie. I Am Charlie Hebdo.

A collage of Charlie Hebdo covers. Taken from Berlin's BZ paper.

I'm posting this following the good idea of Dov Bear, who wrote: 

I am urging ALL of you to do this too. Put the collage of Charlie Hebdo covers (taken from Berlin's BZ paper) on your blogs, your Facebook pages and tell your local papers you want them to take a stand and run this, too. Tell the terrorists that they don't control the public discourse or the free exchange of ideas.  Tell them they aren't going to win this. We get to think. We get to talk, We get to laugh. And they can't stop us.

Silence is assent.
The pen is mightier than the sword. I hope.

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Louisiana Lesson #3: Invasive Species

One of the things we did in New Orleans was to go on a kayak trip. But first, we had to learn about the devastation of the Louisiana wetlands--how dredging and channelization, levees, oil and gas exploration, climate change and more have had a devastating impact on the Louisiana coastline. It is losing miles of land every year and is more at risk than any other part of the U.S. And that is even without hurricanes! I'm not going to go into a detailed explanation of it here--but if you are interested, this link has a nice primer.

[I'm not going to do into an explanation of why the nearly-all Republican legislators from Louisiana don't take the lead on trying to find a solution to the problem. Granted, most of them don't believe in climate change but I personally think you don't even need to believe in climate change to understand this is a problem...]

But anyway--while we were out there kayaking, we did hear about how some of the invasive species are contributing to the devastation of the wetlands.

In particular, we heard about the water hyacinth. A native of South America, it was innocently introduced as a beautiful plant for water gardens in the south at the 1884 Worlds Fair. And now it has spread, and spread--taking over wetlands throughout the south.

Having seen it, I can tell you that the Water Hyacinth is a pretty plant. It looks shiny and new.

It struck me that invasive species are a good metaphor for what happens with the schools. The idea of introducing a new species sounds good. And then it turns out that it wasn't such a great idea. In fact, that it caused a lot of new problems.

Here in Michigan we've got our own invasives to contend with--purple loosestrife, periwinkle, garlic mustard, buckthorn...(read about them here).

Testing, charters, Teach For America--to me they are all invasive species. They sounded like good ideas, but in the end, they are (as a famous story in my family goes) "not so hotsy-totsy, and not so ai-yai-yai!". In fact, they are destructive.

Louisiana is ahead of us in invasive species and wetlands loss, and ahead of us in destruction of public schools as well. But don't think that we are not catching up! And understand that the road to hell is paved with good intentions.

As with the fight to get rid of invasive species, different techniques are required for different species. So too with all the "new, better" school invasions.

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Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Louisiana Lesson #2: Charters and Choice

I spent part of my vacation in New Orleans. I didn't spend much time on the schools there (although my daughter did get me some Louisiana-themed books for Chanukah, including one on education that I have not read yet). Nonetheless, I did hear a bit about how the (nearly) all-charter New Orleans school system has negatively affected students.

Just two points:

1. One person described to me how the for-profit school charters are trying to decrease their costs--and the way that they are doing it is to make class sizes larger. And the initial reason for charters? Supposedly they were going to make class sizes smaller...

[You might want to read this Diane Ravitch post with important links demonstrating why class size really does matter. In fact, the needier the kids, the more it matters...]

New Orleans school district. Screen shot taken from Google 1/4/2014.

2. I visited with an old friend of mine who was visiting her family in New Orleans. She is a teacher in Florida now. She described to me how in New Orleans today, you put in your requests to schools to a central administrative body who decides what schools your kids will go to. One of her relatives has three elementary-school-age children, and each of them is in a different school. That is not his choice. I immediately thought, "getting kids to school must be a nightmare!" But that's not what she pointed out to me. She pointed out that the system is completely disempowering to parents.

The great irony, of course, is that the whole "promotional" idea behind charter schools is that parents should have choice.

But now, the last laugh is on New Orleans parents.

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Sunday, January 4, 2015

Louisiana Lesson #1: Plessy v Ferguson

I spent part of my winter break in New Orleans. And during a cemetery tour, I saw the grave of Homer Plessy.

Plessy, as in the famous "Separate but Equal" 1896 Supreme Court case of Plessy v. Ferguson.

What I didn't know is that the Plessy v. Ferguson case, which was applied to schools until the case of Brown v. Board of Education, did not start out as an education case. It was a case about separate transportation on street cars. It was a transportation case (think Rosa Parks), but its impact was felt on education. 

The family grave, which includes Homer Plessy,
and is in French, says that Homer Plessy
died March 1, 1925, age 63. Photo by Ruth Kraut

Facts of the Case 
The state of Louisiana enacted a law that required separate railway cars for blacks and whites. In 1892, Homer Adolph Plessy--who was seven-eighths Caucasian--took a seat in a "whites only" car of a Louisiana train. He refused to move to the car reserved for blacks and was arrested.
[Editors note: Back then, Plessy was described as an "octroon," since he was only 1/8 black. I always loved the sound of that word, though not what it connotes--that someone with only a single drop of blood ascribed to a black ancestor would be considered black.]
Is Louisiana's law mandating racial segregation on its trains an unconstitutional infringement on both the privileges and immunities and the equal protection clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment?
Decision: 7 votes for Ferguson, 1 vote(s) against
Legal provision: US Const. Amend 14, Section 1
No, the state law is within constitutional boundaries. The majority, in an opinion authored by Justice Henry Billings Brown, upheld state-imposed racial segregation. The justices based their decision on the separate-but-equal doctrine, that separate facilities for blacks and whites satisfied the Fourteenth Amendment so long as they were equal. (The phrase, "separate but equal" was not part of the opinion.) Justice Brown conceded that the 14th amendment intended to establish absolute equality for the races before the law. But Brown noted that "in the nature of things it could not have been intended to abolish distinctions based upon color, or to enforce social, as distinguished from political equality, or a commingling of the two races unsatisfactory to either." In short, segregation does not in itself constitute unlawful discrimination. 

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Keep the Pressure on Legislators!

It's a fast changing universe with lame duck session. Two groups that are following the details: Michigan Parents for Schools and the Tri-County Alliance for Education. Here is the latest update from MIPFS.

Final hours of lame duck - your voice needed now!
Dear Ruth,
The lame duck session of the legislature is drawing to a close, and two important measures that would hurt our local schools are still under intense discussion. We've reached the point where we need you to call your legislators personally.

The first measure, as you know, is funding for roads: while the state Senate opted to simply raise money directly with the gas tax, the House was afraid of raising any taxes and chose to take road funds from money that normally goes to schools as well as cities and towns. They have been negotiating over this for many days now, and as the deadline nears, the pressure to do something - anything - will grow.

Whatever solution they find must not remove funding from schools, period. Simply leave our kids out of it.

The second measure is the school district "deficit early warning" package, or, as we like to call it, the "Defund 'Em + Take 'Em Over" package. These bills do nothing to help local schools in financial trouble but do greatly expand the power of the stateTreasury Department to take over districts with budget problems. While the state bleeds funding from our schools, these bills would require districts to dedicate staff to write a whole slew of new reports to describe how they are in financial trouble. Bill sponsors weren't interested in the concerns of parents or school officials and pushed their punitive bills through the Senate. They may come up for a vote in the House today.

We really need you to call TODAY. Ask your lawmakers to:
  • Fix the roads, but leave our kids and schools out of it. (HB 4539, 5477, 5493)
  • Oppose the "Defund 'Em + Take 'Em Over" package (SB 951-954, 957)

Please CALL
Rep. Adam Zemke - (517) 373-1792
Sen. Rebekah Warren - (517) 373-2406
Thank you for your efforts to protect our local schools!
Steve Norton
Michigan Parents for Schools

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Thursday, December 4, 2014

Legislative Whack-a-Mole: Lame Duck Session Activities

I am reposting this alert from Michigan Parents for Schools, written by Steve Norton, which sums up all the problems with this lame duck session and suggests some action.

Let's play "Legislative Whack-A-Mole™"!

We're in the legislative "lame duck" session, so that means it must be time to push a lot of bad ideas into law while Michigan voters are getting ready for the holidays. And we have a great assortment of bad ideas this year:

Bad Idea #1 - Let's pave the roads with our children's education:
Everyone agrees that our roads need help. The MI Senate passed a straight-up increase in the gas tax to pay for it. But in their continuing effort to duck responsibility for, well, anything, the state House leadership breathed new life into a discredited plan to pay for better roads with - you guessed it - money from schools. To the tune of $700 million per year - $500 per student. And then "We the People" would have to vote on a referendum to raise taxes just to keep the school funding we already have. Sweet!

This is utter nonsense and displays not courage but the exact opposite. Read news coverage here and here and then use our advocacy system to let your Representative know what you think of this plan (use this link:

Bad Idea #2 - Cut school funding and then take 'em over when they have budget problems:The "deficit early warning" bill package sailed through the Senate and now has to gain the approval of the House. It has not improved with age. Here is our write-up on the bills; please use our action alert here to contact the Governor and House members -

Bad Idea #3 - Cut school funding and then force them to flunk 3rd graders who don't test well in reading: We do need to make sure that every child can read well, and as early as possible. But that's not always easy, and helping kids who struggle with reading can't be done on the cheap. Simply branding kids (and schools) as failures by flunking them after 3rd grade won't make the challenges go away. Even Florida, supposedly a success story for this flunking idea, only made real improvements by investing hundreds of millions of dollars in early reading intervention programs. The Michigan version? Not a dime.

Read our issue brief here, and then speak out on this proposal to your State Representative with this link:!

Bad Idea #4 - Cut school funding, and then slap a simplistic letter grade on them to show how badly they're doing: In Lansing and in Washington, there is a fetish about judging schools on the basis of a handful of test scores. This proposal would make things worse by using narrow test scores to "grade" schools - on a curve, no less. Does a grade of "C" make you think "pretty decent, middle of the pack'? Me neither. And how about that big red "F" (they really want to be able to Fail schools) - does that make you think "schools struggling with a history of poverty, discrimination and instability"? Not exactly. But this bill would make sure that schools with the lowest test scores always got an F. 

Trying to sum up a school's performance in one letter grade, based on scores from tests we haven't even picked yet, is not a solution. It's just shifting the blame, and rewarding schools that care about nothing but test scores.Read our issue brief here, and then speak out on this proposal to your State Representative by using this link:!

(You may have noticed a common theme: cut school funding, and then make a fuss about how public schools can't "do their jobs." Like a good magician, make sure your audience is only looking at what you want them to see.)

What can you do? Pick the ones that disgust you the most and make your voice heard. If you're like me, that will be all of these bad ideas. The folks behind these bills are hoping no one is watching; they are hoping to keep us looking in the wrong direction. Let's show them that we see through their magic tricks. Take action today!

Steve Norton
MI Parents for Schools

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Monday, December 1, 2014

Jazzing Up the Singapore Delegation's Visit. Also, Cool Libraries.

Two weeks ago on Wednesday night there was a reception before the school board meeting for the delegation from Singapore. (You may recall that Ann Arbor sent a delegation to Singapore over the summer. Jenna Bacolor reported on it in her Rec & Ed blog.) You might also recall that I did a blog exchange with a blogger from Singapore. Read her post on my blog here.

The delegation from Singapore. There is another person hiding behind
the person on the far left. Photo by Ruth Kraut.

To be perfectly honest, what brought me to the pre-school board meeting was not the prospect of seeing the Singapore delegation in action, or the prospect of hours of listening to people talking, but rather, the fact that the Community High Jazz Band (at least, one of its combos) was performing for the Singapore delegation reception. As it happens, this is the combo that I am most interested in, because my son is the drummer. And also--drum sets do not transport themselves. (To be fair, my husband was there too and drove there.)

All of the photos are by me.
I know, they are not necessarily the best!
It probably would help
if I didn't move the iphone while pressing the camera button.
Left to right: Lucas Atkin-Smith, Lydia Kreinke, Liam Knight, Jonathan Lynn,
Raven Eaddy. Photo by Ruth Kraut

Left to right: Lucas Atkin-Smith, Jonathan Lynn, Raven Eaddy, Joel Appel-Kraut

Check out the wonderful drummer! Photo by Ruth Kraut.

Also, the CHS Jazz Band teacher, Jack Wagner, was there with his two children--who were happily dancing to the jazz music. I danced with them a bit as well. They told me that they do, in fact, listen to (and like) lots of other music. One of their favorites? Lady Gaga.

On the way out--of course I stopped to check out some books.
And then I noticed that you can also check out telescopes at the Ann Arbor library!
How cool is that? Possibly even cooler than the puppets that
you can check out at the Northfield Township library. Photo by Ruth Kraut

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

AAPS School Climate Data: A Teacher's Perspective on the Teachers' Perspectives

A guest post from A3 Teacher

In June of this year Ann Arbor Public Schools released their school climate data from the 2013-14 school year.  The results from the surveys given to students, parents/guardians, and teachers can all be found here.  As a teacher I was particularly interested in the teacher survey.  Four items stood out to me as possible areas for AAPS improvement--at the bottom of this post are the full details of the items selected for this post (Most of these items are briefly touched upon in the presentation given at the AAPS Board Meeting, although the presentation lacked specifics in regard to ways of addressing them).  Having worked in other school districts that do extremely well in these areas, I know that AAPS can, and should, do better.  It will be interesting to see the results of the next climate survey in order to determine if the district has improved in these areas.  

1. 39% of teachers feel that professional development did not help them to better meet the learning needs of students.

If almost 40% of teachers feel that current professional development does not ultimately help students to learn and achieve at higher levels, there may be larger problems.  While there will most likely continue to be serious budget issues in Michigan’s future, high quality professional development does not necessarily cost more.  The key to highly successful professional development is 1) surveying teachers needs and desires, 2) finding the intersection and linking these items to the school improvement plan, and 3) putting plenty of time towards planning, execution, and follow-up.  How is administration reflecting or gathering data in order to evaluate the effectiveness of professional development?  Administrators and directors must invest the time and employ best practices in order to raise the use and efficacy of professional development.  Perhaps each administrator could survey building teachers using an online format and build these targeted needs into professional development.

2. 45% of teachers feel that their schools are not kept clean.

The second area that is in our control is the cleanliness of schools.  We have now made a contract with GCA services.  The district, hopefully, is collecting or will be collecting data on 1) whether schools are cleaner or dirtier as a result of this contract, 2) what services have been gained and/or lost because of the contract (for example, are desks and surfaces cleaned?  What are the exact expectations that parents, students, and teachers should see met in regard to the cleaning of each space where, many times, hundreds of students pass through?).  Should this contract prove to not increase cleanliness, the district should consider alternatives in the upcoming year.  

In addition, perhaps AAPS and GCA could partner to create an online spreadsheet that would allow teachers, parents, and students to report areas of concern in their schools.  Taking that idea a step further, perhaps GCA or AAPS could develop an app to allow students, parents, and teachers to upload photos from smart devices in order to report areas of concern.  [Editor’s Note: The City of Ann Arbor recently developed an app so that citizens can identify and submit problems such as potholes.] Separately, perhaps GCA could send a survey each quarter in order to determine areas of success and areas to continue working on.  By state law teachers must demonstrate growth of their students. Shouldn’t we also expect GCA to show that they are increasing the cleanliness of the schools?

3. 30% of teachers do not feel like they have the materials needed to be effective in teaching.

As teachers are told to do more and more (more students in each classroom, more development of curriculum, assessments, and implementation of new programs), I find it disheartening that teachers do not feel that they have the items needed to be successful.  It is challenging when paperbacks are literally falling apart in students’ hands, when science teachers do not have enough lab equipment to run the types of labs they know are important to student learning, or teachers lack the necessary materials to engage all students in art projects.  There is a gap between what teachers know must happen in the classroom in order for significant growth and learning and the financial realities of Michigan’s current state of education.  

This year the Ann Arbor Educational Foundation pledged an additional amount (up to $80,000 from the previous year’s $22,000) to provide AAPS schools with grants for projects.  This can partially fill in the gaps in order to give teachers the necessary tools to be and feel successful; AAPS should increase teachers’ access to and understanding of the grants.  I would recommend that the AAEF consider two application dates (one in the fall and one in the spring) as opposed to one giant singular date in the fall.  This would allow teachers to plan during the summer, knowing that they can count on specific tools or items in the coming school year.  

4. 55% of teachers do not consider their schools well-maintained in regard to a comfortable climate, lighting, and grounds.

School maintenance continues to be an area in which AAPS struggles.  When asked the same question, 37% of 6-12 students felt the same as the teachers.  While this is not only an issue of providing employees with an appropriate and professional workspace, it is also an issue of creating environments that are conducive to learning.  The district must figure out how to address these issues - perhaps creating a volunteer corps of teachers, families, students, and community members to work together on these items would be beneficial.  

Strongly Disagree
Strongly Agree
Don't Know
Total Responses
The professional development sessions I have attended have helped me to better meet the learning needs of my students.
Fresh, high-quality food is served at this school.
My school is kept clean.
I have the materials I need -- such as textbooks, computers and visual aids -- to effectively teach my classes.
This school is well-maintained, with a comfortable climate, adequate lighting and well-kept grounds.

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